Major League Baseball is returning to Walt Disney World in 2023, with the Tampa Bay Rays agreeing to host part of their spring training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The arrangement comes after Hurricane Ian damaged the Rays’ facilities in Port Charlotte, Florida in September, prompting the team to seek out alternative accommodation.
“We are thankful for Disney’s willingness and ability to accommodate our unexpected Spring Training needs,” said Rays team president Matt Silverman. “ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex will provide our players and coaches with first-class facilities for their annual ramp up to the season.”
Under the agreement, both major league and minor league players for the Rays will work out at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex this spring. Major League Spring Training runs from February 6th to March 1st, with early arrivals reporting on February 6th and pitchers and catchers reporting the following week on February 14th.
I look forward to the return of professional baseball to ESPN Wide World of Sports. However, it’s being reported that the majority Ray’s spring training home games will be held at Tropicana Field, not ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Disney’s baseball stadium is perfectly designed for spring training and the unique atmosphere Disney adds makes for a fun experience for attendees of all ages. Hopefully there will be some activities and games scheduled for fans to attend. Look for additional information to be released in January.
Faron Kelley, Vice President of Disney Sports, commented, “We are thrilled to be bringing Major League Baseball back to Walt Disney World Resort. We’re always looking for top tier events, like the Rays’ Spring Training, for our guests to enjoy at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.”
History of Spring Training at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
The sports complex has a long history of hosting professional baseball. It was the Atlanta Braves’ spring training home for two decades from 1998 to 2019, and it was also a host site for the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic, which featured major league players.
The Tampa Bay Rays have also had a presence at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the past. In 2007, they played three regular-season games at The Stadium, winning all three against the Texas Rangers. A year later, they swept a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, improving their record to 6-0 all-time at Walt Disney World Resort.
The Tampa Bay Rays are entering 2023 with high expectations after making it to the playoffs for the last four seasons. They will once again be led by pitching ace Shane McClanahan, who was named the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team in 2022, and shortstop Wander Franco, who is expected to anchor the Tampa Bay offense as the team goes for the AL East division title for the third time in four years.